The 220 from Ballincollig to Carrigaline bus became a 24-hour service this week, with a peak time frequency of every 15 minutes as part of changes to improve cross-city services.
National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) general secretary Dermot O’Leary said his organisation has worked with Bus Éireann to implement the service changes but he does not believe they will be able to operate to the scheduled timetable until the National Transport Authority (NTA), the Government, and local authorities deliver more bus lanes and priority traffic lights.
He has described the service infrastructure as “not fit for purpose” and said drivers are being wrongly criticised by frustrated passengers for late buses.
Mr O’ Leary has written to all Cork TDs, including Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Michael McGrath, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Aindrias Moynihan and Labour Party representative Ciaran Lynch, asking them to lobby the authorities for better bus infrastructure and to inform the public not to criticise drivers for delayed services.
“It is unfortunate that a major proportion of criticism has been levelled at Bus Éireann drivers as they go about trying to prop up a service that is obviously not fit for purpose,” Mr O’Leary said.
“We have informed Bus Éireann that the running times for a number of these services are inadequate and will inevitably end up having difficulties in maintaining the stated departure and arrival times, particularly those at morning and evening times.
“It’s not the driver’s fault. The concern for me is that bus drivers are being blamed for something they have no control over,” he added.
Mr O'Leary added: "I want people to understand that the issues associated with the 220, 223 and other bus services are not at the door of bus drivers or Bus Eireann. It's down to the NTA, bad planning and the infrastructure not being in place.
“I was there trying to facilitate the introduction of the service last Sunday and thankfully, we got it done but my understanding is that the frequency is gone to four an hour. The cynic would say that instead of two buses being delayed per hour, there will be four and that's probably true,” he added.
Bus Eireann and the unions have agreed to jointly monitor the 220 route to establish pinch points and traffic problems affecting the running times of a number of journeys. The results of these will be forwarded to the NTA.
Cork South Central TD Michael McGrath said he shares some of the NBRU's concerns but added that initial feedback from the 220 service changes has been so far positive.
“Before the recent changes, bus drivers had a very difficult job as they were expected to perform impossible tasks. Drivers have always done their level best to provide as good a bus service as possible and I would absolutely praise them for this,” he told the Evening Echo.
“I note that the Union have stated that journey times are not realistic and I would share this concern with them. I have made this point directly to Bus Eireann and the NTA. I’m pleased to see that it has been agreed to monitor this going forward. I would also say that the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy does present an opportunity to address some of the ongoing issues related to the bus service,” he added.